Sunday, August 15, 2010


No one mocks the draggy pants of today’s young men more than I, but it becomes apparent that my comments say more about me than Mr. Draggy. After all, there have been a few occasions during my life when my behavior or sense of style was rightfully ridiculed.

Okay, a few thousand occasions.

But I find myself nowadays more often pitying the young folk than mocking them. They are woefully overscheduled by their parents, with extracurricular sports, theater, music, and equestrian activities. (If your parents never bought you a pony when you were a kid, replace equestrian with rodentia, which just means you were more likely to be found playing with a hamster named Squishy.)

I used to shake my head at the über-connectedness of youth, with their iGizmos and their regular twittery updates on social networking computery things and their cellular telephones that are so small they can get lost in a pocket between two coins. Now I marvel that these miniature adults can organize all that tech stuff and still manage their own lives.

It must be a difficult way to grow up. I’m glad I survived my younger years without draggy pants, ponies, and Facebook. I daresay, as the grumpy old man that I am, that life just might have been easier back then.

Going to college was easier as well. That pre-senior summer activity known as “figuring out where you want to go to college” has spiraled out of control as well. It used to be that the upcoming graduate would either matriculate at whatever university had a building named after his grandfather, or she’d apply to a couple of places she had heard of.

The application was completed by hand and it just wasn’t worth the effort to fill out too many. I did so for a university that was a few minutes from my front door, another where my sister was a student, and a third that my mom and I visited to see what it had to offer. That was it.

Our modern students, with the power of Google at their fingertips, can easily apply at dozens of institutions that will happily propagate their information so that it is a nearly painless process (simply click debit or credit and you will be ready to go). It doesn’t make sense to apply to a dozen colleges, unless you listen to the alumnae fundraising group of whichever school is currently under consideration. Then the more, the merrier! They encourage you to apply early and often.

Kristin and I now begin our second of three college application processes—for our children, that is. Our bank account will be zapped for fifty or sixty bucks every time Kelsey clicks [APPLY HERE!] just like when Kate did it two years ago.

We have gone on a couple of college tours with Kelsey, and she has been fortunate to visit other campuses with other family members. I go not to support the silly notion that you have to actually walk the streets to know if it is the right school to attend, but because I have time to kill and I always enjoy a road trip.

The tour guides are all well-meaning and cheerful, but I wouldn’t want to count on them for any accurate information. They are the university equivalent of the under-dressed ladies waving their arms over the latest vehicles at a car show. And since they are generally college seniors at the time they lead us around by the nose, it’s not as if they have actually finished school and can be any kind of good role model to the younger visitors. They’re floundering like everyone else!

The high school students along for the tour, anticipating possibly attending the esteemed institution where they find themselves, never have any questions for the tour guides. They stumble along silently, perhaps giggling with a friend who came along. It is the parents who pepper the guide with interrogatives.

“Is it a safe campus?” Sure. In relation to what?

“Does anyone really major in dance?” Yes. The tour guide, in fact.

“Does the school guarantee finishing within four years?” Hahahahahahahaha.

The last seemed like a really foolish question, given the rate of impacted programs and the length and breadth of four-year degree programs in general, and the likelihood that the student might just have other things to do than fill up the class load. Work, for example, and parties—and of course work parties.

I came to realize why the students were quiet during the tour. They had no interest in asking the questions that truly interested them, especially not with their parents standing nearby.

“Where do you rank on the list of party schools? And as a follow-up, I’d like to volunteer to help you improve in that ranking.”

“Where do the cutest boys (or girls) hang out?”

“Are my grades sent to my parents?”

We are just about done with Kelsey. She’ll go off in one direction or another. When it is Kyle’s turn, the last of the three, he’ll be lucky if we hand over the credit card number for the applications. And as for tours, we’ll just print out a map and wish him good speed.

1 comment:

  1. Hopefully Kyle will also get some car keys; or a chauffeur would be nice. It's always the third kid that gets the "short end of the stick." I'm glad that I was a spoiled only child. Just look at how well I turned out! Just ask my psychiatrist.